Possible failure of Kariba Dam raises concern as El Nino bites

2016-01-15 15:18
Kariba Dam (Roy Mckenzie, News24)

Kariba Dam (Roy Mckenzie, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Lusaka - Concerns surrounding the structural health of the Kariba Dam have risen following an announcement that the region could be facing a shutdown of its hydroelectric plants as water levels drop "dangerously" low.

According to Bloomberg Business, Zambian Energy Minister Dora Siliya raised the alarm last week when she announced that water levels in the dam had dropped to below 14%, prompting the shutdown of the dam's hydroelectric plants.

The situation was exacerbated by a 4.6 magnitude earthquake, which hit the Kariba area and parts of Zambia on January 12.

The incident, according to Zimbabwe's state-owned Herald newspaper, raised fears about the vulnerability of the dam wall, although no damages were recorded.

Lake Kariba, which straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, generates up to 40% of hydropower to the southern African region and could have catastrophic effects should its walls fail.

Water levels 'dangerously' low

According to a statement sent to News24, Chipilaika Mukofu, Director at the Geological Survey Department in Zambia, revealed that the possible effects of the earthquake were being investigated.

Mukofu also said that the epicentre of the quake was within sensitive reach of Lake Kariba and that the stability of the dam wall could be affected as a result.

A recent report by the Institute of Risk Management South Africa (IRMSA) detailed the implications of a failure at the Kariba Dam.

The report, titled Impact of the failure of the Kariba Dam, said the dam was in a dangerous state, with a gaping crater of eroded bedrock undercutting the its foundation.

"While water levels are dangerously low, which takes some pressure off the failing construction of the dam for now, the bigger picture of the state of Kariba Dam is critical.

"Climate change, high rainfall patterns impacting future dam levels and water inflows from other regions, and potential seismic activity, could all contribute to the likelihood of failure of the Kariba Dam. In December 2014, the critical period was defined as 'the next three years', while the rehabilitation project is only due for completion in 2025," explained Kay Darbourn, researcher and writer of the report. 

A News24 report last year indicated that Zambia and Zimbabwe had signed a $294m to repair the dam, but efforts seemed to have been delayed by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) as tender processes continued.

With some countries in the southern region relying mainly on hydropower from the Zambezi, several economies would be severely affected should the dam collapse. South Africa alone will lose 1 500MW of imported power, the report said.



Read more on:    zambia  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.